Colon Cancer Patient Encourages Early Screening

Diane Porter | March 11th, 2020

Life is a journey that often times can throw you a curveball. As Jeff sits in a chair and looks out the window at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center, he reflects on his life, when things started to go down an expected path.

55 year old Jeff Schleisman, a pastor who lives in rural Lake City, states “be sure to get one!” That is his advice when talking about colonoscopies. He is thankful for the time he has and wants to inspire and help others by sharing his story.

A year and half ago, Jeff noticed some unusual discomfort in his stomach area, but passed it off as possible kidney stones. The pain dissipated in a few days. One month later the same pain returned and then again subsided after a few days. In February 2019, Jeff cancelled church services as he was experiencing pain. He went to his family doctor, who ordered a CAT scan and colonoscopy. The words “you have cancer” were spoken.

Jeff was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, the same cancer that took his brother’s life some year’s ago. After his brother’s diagnosis he had a colonoscopy, along with his two brothers and three sisters. He was clear but was told to come back in five years. Jeff felt good at the five-year mark and put off the next colonoscopy. He wishes he could go back and listen to his doctor.

After Jeff’s diagnosis, he discussed with his Bishop whether he could still perform as a pastor while receiving chemo. He decided to take time off as he felt he could not give 100% to his parishioners. After visiting with his Bishop, Jeff thought to himself the cancer is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It was disguising itself. Colon cancer is a silent disease.

Jeff’s cancer has metastasized and has moved to his liver and lungs. The chemo treatment he receives every two weeks at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center is working on his colon and liver, however, the chemo is not working for the smaller cancer in the lungs. Jeff waits for a plan to attack that area. When he asked his doctor how long he would have to take the chemo drugs, his doctor explained that this will be his new lifestyle.

Jeff advises to have that colonoscopy and states, “Don’t put it off like I did, it is an easy procedure that can save your life.”

The death rate for colorectal cancer has been dropping over time thanks to screenings and advancements in treatments and the key remains to catch cancer at its earliest stage. If a polyp is discovered during a colonoscopy, the doctor can often remove it during the procedure. Polyps are abnormal tissue growths that often look like small flat bumps. A polyp can sometimes develop into cancer.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.  Colorectal cancer can be prevented with regular colonoscopy screenings.

“The nurses at BVRMC are great. They are very gracious and are able to answer any questions I have,” says Jeff.

Jeff’s three sisters are all nurses and all have accompanied him to his treatments at various times. They are very pleased with the care he receives at BVRMC. They love the facility and the nursing staff is nice, friendly and knowledgeable. Jeff also wanted to note that the Nutrition Services department has awesome food and he loves the desserts!

He is grateful for his parishioners, who have turned the tables and are now reaching out to him. He also states “Don’t lose hope!”

Scripture, Luke 13:6-9, provides hope for Jeff. “Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any.’ So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”

This is the metaphor Jeff used for his journey. He has been receiving Miracle Grow from his friends and parishioners’ since his diagnosis. Jeff’s “fertilizer” from his friends and parishioners gets him through his cancer journey.

Jeff Schleisman

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